With the upcoming release of inFamous2 coming June 7th, and the fact that I recently played the hell out of this game, I felt a revisit was in order for those of you who got into this game when it first came out back in May of 2009, almost two full years ago. I've got to be honest, I'm a big fan of the free roam RPG-style choices and upgrades, which is a genre that's really grown with the newer systems. Never before have I played a "sandbox game" that didn't feel like a sandbox. Games like The Hulk Ultimate Destrcution and Grand Theft Auto III were my introduction into these games. Call me late or early, the point is these games were amazing to me. A game like inFamous takes all the elements I loved in these games and amplifies them to a level that is so engaging you will find yourself in front of your television for hours.
Whatever could be said about this game pretty much has been said, but it's still worth a little praise and a little nitpick, to remind us what we look forward to with the improvements we're already getting glimpses of in inFamous2. I want to start by praising this game because it's so utterly spectacular and creative. The sandbox is exactly what you would want in a sandbox game. The freedom is expansive, enormous, and there are absolutely no load times. Whether it's the wires on the roofs or the train tracks, there are easy ways to get from one place to another quickly. The powers you gain along the way get progressively better and more impressive, and yet the game still finds ways to challenge you and make it exciting. The player has complete control of Cole, and he climbs buildings far more smoothly than Crackdown or Crackdown 2 could ever hope to offer. Cole has a cross between a magnet-latching-system from his electric powers and a parkour-style kick to add some height. He knows how to press against a building and slide down slowly, and he'll rarely act out in ways that frustrate.
The radar system is also utterly gorgeous. Not only does everything that could possibly be needed show up, but they all show up in their own unique ways, so it never gets confusing. The few things that don't show up on radar, like the televisions with random reports from either the "voice of survival" or news spin, the game makes them easily found brings up the "point of interest" triangle. One of the greatest things about Cole's powers is that he can often do several of them at a time. There are so many you may find yourself forgetting about one or two that are extremely useful. One of the best is sliding on ropes, holding out a shield, jumping up, gliding in the air while still holding out your shield, then holding square and just slamming down with a Thunder Drop amidst many enemies. The freedom and powers in this game are so expansive and immense, it lets the player's imaginiation run wild. Mini-games help remind you of moves (like the annoying photographer) and keep you practicing your platformer/climber skills (with counter-surveillance). Yet with all this freedom and power, the game still manages to give you a challenge, demand you follow in a specific order that feels natural, and you never feel like something is a cake walk. There's nothing better than having a huge repertoire of powers and abilities and still feel like you're struggling.
Finally, I guess it's time I nitpick. While this game is spectacular, my biggest problem I wanted to bring up with this game actually has not been said: Why are all the characters treating you like shit the entire game? It doesn't matter if you're a good guy, saving the world, any of the important side characters berate you during difficult and complex missions. Nothing is more frustrating than fighting a hoard of bad guys, throwing grenades, thunder blasts, shockwaves, shooting lightning, draining from the bus while holding out your shield to prevent dying from a bombardment of enemy fire of which isn't just bullets but rockets that can knock you on your ass and away from the bus, just to hear Trish yell out, "DAMN IT PROTECT THE BUS!" What. A. Bitch. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. She's constantly being a smart ass with you, and to make matters worse, Moya is the same. One of the most awful parts for me was when Cole rightfully complains about being bossed around like an errand boy, and after she flips shit on you she then talks to you like a five year old: "Don't ever take that tone with me again." WHAT THE CRAP I'M MAKING THE CITY A BETTER PLACE GEEZ! Finally when you meet John, after having been listening to his Dead Drops for two islands, you're excited because you already feel a certain kinship with him. He's probably the most honest and well-adjusted character, and what does he say to you when you're desperately trying to keep up with him (C'MON HE'S IN A HELICOPTER) to make certain we don't lose the Ray Sphere again? "Get the lead out!" What's this guy's problem? You're running around on rooftops, he's in a friggin' helicopter, can't he give you some goddamn credit? No character does. Not even your best friend and complete joke: Loserly Zeke. You spend over a half hour trashing the crap out of Alden's men just so he can get all indignant and say, "Just because you have powers doesn't make you better than everyone else. Not by a long shot." Yeah, don't thank me or anything for just saving your life. It was no sweat or anything. I didn't have to deal with turret after turret, poisonous gas, and complex platforming or anything.
It may seem like such a complaint is a nitpick, but when it is throughout the entire game, it's really frustrating. You are working hard, whether "good" or "evil," which I will second Zero Punctuation on as far as this game, but no character really shows appreciation for it. You lose your girlfriend, your best friend betrays you, and you're chasing down some mysterious weapon that did this to you in the first place: despite this all John can say is "C'mon! Move!" No gamer wants to spend the entire game being talked to like a child--children don't even like being talked to like children--especially in a game like this. Show the gamer some appreciation. It's basic courtesy. I don't mind attitude from characters, their own flaws, etc., but especially in mid-mission, encourage the player, don't put them down. They're putting a lot of time and effort into this, let them know they're a badass sometimes, and not just in gameplay. Show some appreciation and encouragement, we're already challenged enough without some jerk in our ear yelling about how we suck.
Otherwise, this game is just a masterpiece. The story, while convoluted at times and requires some forced exposition (i.e. Alden's background all of the sudden when you meet him for the first time), it's really engaging and imaginative. The graphic novel cut scenes and art are visually stunning and really put you in this dark feel, along with the city design, as the IGN review mentioned. They briefly touch on how Cole's design is kind of grainy, and Zero Punctuation accurately points out his awful voice. It's "broody" in that whiny way Spiderman Noir wishes he was Batman. At times, though, Cole captures it, but only when he's on ledges looking down at the city. His design is also very bland, and gets worse when he's "evil" because he's just gray with black stuff on him. He's just bland and ugly. Knights of the Old Republic did a better job and that game was an original Xbox game that was released in 2003. Unfortunately, though the cut scenes are visually great, most of the time it's all narrated by Cole, which leaves you craving for dialogue, hearing and seeing what's going on. It's classic telling vs. showing. I want to hear Trish's final words, not be told them. Shortcomings aside, this game is so good it begs for another one, one that can fix these nitpicks, these small failures, and improve upon what was already great. Seven and a half weeks, my friends. I trust in Sucker Punch to deliver once again.
Sources and Info:
Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw on infamous on The Escapist.
inFamous on Game Trailers.
inFamous on IGN.
inFamous on Wikipedia, not that it's got that much interesting information on it.